Ethics Of Surrogacy: The Case Of Baby "Luna" Abandoned In Ukraine

Surrogacy is still considered quite controversial, especially in Italy where a story has made headlines after would-be parents renounced a baby born in Ukraine. The author says we must face the ethical (and other) questions rather than dismiss the practice as "uterus for rent."


ROME — The story of the surrogate child born in Kiev, and then abandoned by its would-be Italian parents, is filled with deep sadness. No child should ever be let go.

And yet, it happens. It happens when a woman decides to give birth anonymously, and the baby is then given up for adoption. Or when a child is placed in temporary foster care, but then never returns to the family of origin. It happens with some premature-born babies who, after being kept alive with the help of sophisticated therapies, will never be picked up by their parents because of a disability. It even happens with adoption: those rare occasions when the kid is returned, putting him or her through a dramatic "double abandonment."

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The Stakes Of A Ukrainian-Russian Drone Arms Race

A recent unmanned attack could heighten tensions in the conflict zone and have broader geopolitical consequences.

Last week Vladimir Putin complained that even without accepting Kyiv into its ranks, NATO could place missiles in Ukraine near Russia's borders. Russian media was quick to help prove Putin's point, writing about Washington's current military aid to Kyiv, Ukraine's talks with London on obtaining British Brimstone missiles and Turkish drones in Donbas, which has been a disputed site of conflict since 2014.

Just days later, the Ukrainian military for the first time used the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drone in Donbas. The incident Tuesday could seriously change the situation in the conflict zone and have consequences for both Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Turkish relations.

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Zelensky's Ukraine, Where The Pandora Papers Hit Hardest

The global probe of offshore accounts around the world strike at the heart of Kiev's current government and power structure of a ruling class that rose to power on the promise of fighting corruption, including the television-star-turned-President Volodymyr Zelensky.

KIEV — Nowhere could the the revelations from the Pandora Papers investigation hit harder than in Ukraine. The discovery of offshore accounts strike at the heart of the current government and power structure of a ruling class that rose to power on the promise of fighting corruption, including the television-star-turned-President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The worldwide probe, prompted by a massive leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has included work by journalists from the Ukrainian media Slidstvо.Info, which connected the shady financial dealings of Zelensky's television production company Studio Kvartal 95 to the Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. Slidstvo found that the laundered money passed through the Cyprus branch of Kolomoisky-owned Privatbank, according to law enforcement officers.

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What Ukraine Has To Lose In Biden-Putin Talks

Joe Biden's Geneva meeting with Vladimir Putin cannot avoid the Nord Stream 2 pipeline standoff. Kyiv will be watching every step.

KYIV — Before the series of visits and talks, President Joe Biden wrote in a column for the Washington Post that he wanted to improve relations with Russia, but was also ready to work with Europe to deal with Moscow's undermining of security on the continent — especially the so-called Ukrainian issue. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin practically expressed hope that the United States would disintegrate.

Ukraine's hopes are too high for the June 16 meeting between Putin and Biden in Geneva, Switzerland. It is good that the U.S. President found time to talk to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone before his talks with the Russian counterpart. This can only make us happy. It's a shame that our country has little to do here — and the White House has already shown this ahead of time by letting Russia complete the first section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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Alexander Demchenko

Ukraine: Zelensky Doesn't Understand The Rules Of Realpolitik

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is delusional in believing that the U.S. and Europe will force Moscow’s hand, so long as Russia holds so many cards.

KIEV — While President Volodymyr Zelensky awaits NATO membership, he has released his own vision to assert Ukraine with its more powerful European neighbors: As Zelensky outlined in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, this "Plan B" is aimed at deescalating the conflict with Russia in the contested Donbas region in order to move toward a comprehensive treaty to guarantee Ukraine's military, economic and energy security through an accord with the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation.

The Ukrainian President argues that the ongoing Normandy Format (between Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France) will not be an alternative, but will be integrated into a broader process.

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Faustine Vincent

In Ukraine, The Zelensky Revolution Crashes Into Reality

The head of state, a political outsider who had promised to fight corruption, must contend with the powerful oligarchs in his own entourage at the risk of disappointing his voters.

KIEV — At the appointed hour, a crowd of fur hats and coats gathers in front of the town hall. The thermometer reads -17°C on this January Sunday in Kryvyi Rih, located in central Ukraine. Demonstrators take turns speaking in front of the austere building. "We are very poor, the charges are increasing and the nation is under threat; we have to oppose the rates," a woman says. "Zelensky sold our city to the oligarchs!" says another.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, grew up here, in this industrial city of 630,000 inhabitants that is bristling with waste mountains and factory chimneys, the sky hidden by a veil of pollution.

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Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Adoption, IVF, Surrogacy: COVID-19 Puts New Lives On Hold

We must remember the many lives lost to coronavirus. But we should also not forget the fate of many new lives that have been left up in the air as travel bans and strained health care systems have disrupted plans for surrogacy, adoption and in vitro fertilization around the world.

Surrogacy: Some 100 surrogacy babies are stuck in reproductive clinics around Ukraine, which banned foreigners entering the country in March as the COVID-19 infections spread.

*Reproduction clinic BioTexCom, which is managing 46 surrogacy baby relationships, posted a video online urging the government to work with embassies to allow travel exemptions.

*The expectant parents in this global industry come from France, Germany, Argentina, the U.S. and several other countries around the world. Some pregnant surrogates are stuck in isolation away from their families and some who were able to get into Ukraine before the lockdown are now in legal limbo, unable to return to their home countries.

*Human rights activists say the pandemic has shed light on an often exploitive industry. Melissa Brissman, an attorney running the surrogacy agency Reproductive Possibilities, told NBC News that around 200 couples are currently in surrogacy limbo. "When a blanket rule is made quickly, you get all these unanticipated problems," said Brissman. "These babies have parents ready to take care of them. It doesn't have to be this way."

Adoption: International adoptions have similarly been put on hold, with children in countries ranging from Chad to Morocco to China unable to unite with their new families.

*New parents in countries including India and Cameroon are also stuck in lockdowns, with their children lacking documentation to travel with them.

*In many coronavirus hotspots in the U.S., including New York and New Orleans, group homes are understaffed and foster families are hesitant to risk infection.

*On a hopeful note, some areas have seen an increased interest in people wanting to foster and adopt during this time, including Saskatchewan, which was the first district in Canada to provide online foster training. Closed family courts also aren't stopping adoptions, with some ceremonies in the U.S. taking place over Zoom.

IVF: With nonessential medical procedures shut down, women around the world have also had to stop in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.

*In Japan, which has one of the lowest population growth rates in the world, health experts worry that delayed IVF combined with fears around raising children in a pandemic will decrease the birth rate, The Straits Timesreports.

*With the delicate fertility drug cycle, many worry they have lost their chance at becoming parents, despite having often already spent tens of thousands of dollars on treatments. In France, where treatments for thousands of women have been halted, some estimate there will be a rush on IVF treatments after the pandemic is contained.

*Virginie Rio, the founder of the BAMP Collective that advocates for IVF patients, told French Slate, "When we hear that infertility treatment is not vital, we forget the reality for the couples concerned: having a child is often a fundamental life project for them."

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Nataliya Shimkiv

Home Again In Ukraine: Dark Tales From A Donbas Prison

The New Year's Eve prison exchange between Russia and Ukraine was a rare softening of hostilities in the occupied region in eastern Ukraine. Here's the story of one of those released.

On New Year's Eve, 76 people returned to Ukraine as part of the exchange of prisoners negotiated with Moscow: 64 civilians and 12 military personnel. Under various circumstances, all these people had been captured by the pro-Russian militia of the self-proclaimed Donbas and Lugansk People's Republics (LNR/DNR). Here is one man's story.

KYIV — A tall thin man meets us near the hospital. He is 52, there is a small scar on his face, in his hands an electronic cigarette that he will smoke almost the entire time that we speak. He is now undergoing treatment in a hospital near Kyiv. The interview is conducted during a walk through the woods near the hospital. He smiles and says: "I dreamed of walking freely like this. You can't imagine what happiness this is!"

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Sergiy Fotіev*

How To Renovate Kyiv: Start By Replacing All Soviet-Era Slums

There's an old joke about the apartment complexes named after Khrushchev​.

KYIV — Bed bugs are dining at "Khrushchyovkas," a cramped and grim low-cost apartment building named after the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev.

It's just another achievement for the Soviet goal of eliminating all excess in design and construction. These three- to five-storied buildings were assembled quickly and cheaply: The only thing required was that the size of the staircase and the radius of rotation on the steps allows the transport of a coffin. All other space was designed to be as limited as possible.

Nikita Khrushchev personally tested the toilet in such an apartment and delivered a verdict: "If I can do it, everyone can!" In response, a joke circulated about Khrushchev's apartments: He managed to combine the toilet and bathroom, but couldn't figure out how to combine the floor with the ceiling ...

Since 1957, entire neighborhoods have been built cheaply and quickly in Kyiv, with the current housing stock of the Ukrainian capital at 15% Khrushchevkas. It is no longer news that these old, low-quality buildings require major renovation. According to the preliminary general plan, about 3,055 Khrushchevkas, housing 200,000 families, have to be demolished.

Khrushchyovka on the big alley in Kyiv — Photo: Marjan Blan

The task is challenging but also gives an opportunity to rethink the infrastructure and living spaces of the city, as has been done for decades in urban areas of the U.S., Japan, China, Hong Kong, Great Britain and even Russia. City authorities either buy out apartments at the market price or provide new housing. In European countries and Israel, it is common to repair and renew buildings, adding more space, changing communications, improve energy efficiency, and adding a modern design for facades. Sometimes such works can even be carried out without resettling the residents.

In terms of financing, mass renovations of buildings in Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been carried out in recent years with state support, along with programs for subsidies and benefits for individuals affected.

Of course, it is almost impossible to garner 100% support for renovations among residents of the old buildings. Authorities must thus come up with measures to somehow "push" people out. In the UK, a "demolition payment" is introduced to compensate residents of dilapidated buildings. In France, if residents insist on remaining, they will have to pay for the maintenance of the whole building.

The government must ensure security.

But the most straightforward and secure renovation algorithm is applied in Istanbul. People are notified of the dates in which they must leave their apartments. Property owners choose the developer themselves. Houses are built at the expense of developers who can sell vacant apartments in a new house. Construction is carried out for a year and a half, during which time the state pays rent to temporarily evicted people. A cash payment of $20,000 is also possible. At the end of construction, people move into new homes at the same address.

Khrushchyovka in Kyiv. — Photo: Marjan Blan

Construction in Istanbul is carried out according to the strictest regulations. Upon delivery of objects, all technical specifications are carefully checked. Particular attention is paid to the protection of the structure from seismic risks. Modern houses are sometimes equipped with swimming pools, excellent infrastructure, and other amenities.

In Moscow, residents of old Khrushchevkas are offered a renovated apartment in a new house in the same area. Moreover, the number of rooms can't be fewer than in the old apartment, while the total area is larger due to more spacious common areas (kitchen, hallway, corridor, bathroom, toilet). If a resident is not ready to move to an equivalent apartment, he can receive monetary compensation.

At every stage, the government must ensure security. And for Ukraine, this is the most vulnerable spot. People are afraid of legal paradoxes and complicated relationships between the mayor's office, developers and citizens. Housing scams of recent years also ruined the reputation of construction companies, and people are afraid to be left on the street.

A system is needed to decide how and where to relocate all of those living in obsolete Soviet blocks, and Ukrainians need strong legislation. And it should start with the passage of a bill heading into Parliament, called: the Comprehensive Reconstruction of Microdistricts of Obsolete Housing.

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Anna Akage

When Zelensky Met Putin : How It Looked In Kiev, Moscow, Paris

An end to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine doesn't necessarily seem closer, though at least it's not farther away.

PARIS — They are called the "Normandy Four," an allusion to the French region where the plans for future peace negotiations between the four parties was first proposed. That was back in 2014, but it's been three years since the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France last met. This week in Paris they finally sat down to discuss a way to end almost six years of armed conflict between Moscow and Kiev in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.

Those expecting a miracle were disappointed by Tuesday's encounter between Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelensky, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Still, as one observer noted, it was already good news that the first meeting ever between Putin and Zelensky didn't actually make matters worse. Not surprisingly, the views on the one-day summit from Ukrainian, Russian and French media didn't always align.

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Anna Akage

It's Me, Not You: Zelensky Between Trump And Biden — And Putin

The impeachment storm in Washington comes with high stakes in Ukraine as well, especially for the country's own TV-star-turned-President.

Donald Trump's response to the Ukraine-related impeachment probe is nothing short of surreal, with the U.S. president now openly calling on foreign powers to investigate a domestic political rival. The view from Kiev, meanwhile, is surreal in other ways.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who, like Trump was a television star before turning to politics, has proven to be much less able than his American counterpart to play both roles simultaneously. Embarrassed by the initial revelations of the July 25 phone conversation with Trump — in which he also criticized Germany and France for not doing enough for Ukraine — Zelensky has released a single statement on the subject: "I think you read everything in the transcript of the July 25 talk. I don't want to be dragged into the democratic, open elections in the U.S. We had a good, normal conversation. We talked about a lot, and no one pressed me," said Zelensky during a meeting with Trump last month.

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Vladimir Solovyov

For Ukraine's New TV Star President The Show's About To Get Very Real

Ukraine’s president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has learned how to appeal to the whole country — but now this former comedian has to learn how to rule it.

Ukraine's Central Election Commission has made it official: the young comedian and TV actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy has defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a triple margin: 73.2% to 24.4%, with more than 99% of the votes counted. Not only was this a landslide victory, but it was achieved all over the country, in both the Russian-speaking east and the Ukrainian-speaking west.

The outgoing president managed to beat his rival only in the staunchly nationalist Lviv region in western Ukraine.

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Christoph Behrens

An Inside Look At Ukraine's Terrifying TB Outbreak

Strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis are spreading across Ukraine, where armed conflict and market misgivings are making a bad situation even worse.

KRAMATORSK — My car turns off the multi-lane main street, filled with 50-year-old Ladas and Soviet-style trucks, onto a road full of potholes and scrub. Beyond that is the Narkologia Dispenseria, a hospital somewhat hidden in a park in Kramatorsk, a city of more than 150,000 inhabitants in eastern Ukraine. With its crumbling, mint green walls it looks more like more of a bunker than a healthcare facility. Plaster falls off the walls and staircases inside. Neon lights cast a pale glow in the corridors.

The Dispenseria is like an outpost of the Ukrainian health care system, and Natalia Nikolaeva is the border guard. In silver shoes, the doctor keeps watch behind a desk on the ground floor. A pearl necklace embellishes her white laboratory coat. For about 100 euros a month, Nikolaeva stands here every morning, sorting methadone into cups and dispensing the pills to patients, who at 8 a.m. are already standing in a line to alleviate their withdrawal symptoms.

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Pierre Avril

Donbass Blues, The Forgotten Conflict In Eastern Ukraine

KRASNOHORIVKA — The sound of canon fire has become more distant of late in Krasnohorivka. But the war continues to haunt Lioudmila Sidonnka. The young mother's stories are those of soldiers running in all directions, of smoking tanks, never-ending detonations, nights spent in her building's basement, houses on fire.

Little wonder that so many residents in this hamlet, on the Ukrainian side of the frontline, have left. After three years of conflict, only about 100 people — a third of the ghost village's pre-war population — remain. Lioudmila and her family are among the holdouts. Her 14-year-old son, Vadim, shows us shell fragments that he's collected. He also shows us around his school, the only connection he still has to real life. Life before the war.

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Inga Pylypchuk

Torn Families And Tactical Silences In Ukraine

Though brother fights brother on opposite sides of the war in eastern Ukraine, some people manage to bridge the gap that divides them.

MARIUPOL — It is virtually impossible to hide from war once it has begun. It spreads through a city like a dark plume of smoke, which inevitably will envelope all in its dirty residue. It will force you to choose which side you are on, to make a decision of whether to stay or to leave.

Time will pass, and the war may retreat, lurking in the background, a constant white noise at the back of your mind. You will get used to it.

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Michal Kokot, Piotr Andrusieczko

In War-Torn Donbass, Ukrainians Of Polish Origin Beg Warsaw For Help

WARSAW — More than 60 Ukrainians of Polish descent in the breakaway region of Donbass have asked Poland if they could be evacuated there, a request Warsaw has refused. Instead, it offered a modest aid package.

"Many of us are elderly people. There are single mothers too. It's not possible to live here any more. There is no work. The streets are occupied by armed bands. We are all of Polish descent and it's enough for our neighbors to look at us with hostility," says Jerzy Prykolota, who lives with his wife, 18-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, in Luhansk, which along with Donetsk, makes up the region of Donbass.

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